WANDERERS emerged battered and bloodied from defeat at home to Ipswich but with manager Ian Evatt insisting their play-off chase is still strong.

Goals from George Hirst and Cameron Burgess dealt the Whites their first home loss since October, dropping them to sixth spot in the table with nine games to go.

Dion Charles had a penalty saved by visiting keeper Christian Walton – and ensured that Wanderers’ poor home record against the top sides in the division continued.

The good news was that a six-point gap between Bolton and the chasing pack was preserved thanks to Wycombe’s defeat at Burton Albion – but with a trip to league leaders Sheffield Wednesday to come on Friday night, the games do not get any easier for Evatt’s men.

Reflecting on a tense atmosphere around the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday, the Wanderers boss has urged fans to stick with the players to help them through the rough patch of form which has seen them take one point from their last three outings.

“I don’t understand the nerves, being honest, we are still in a good position,” he told The Bolton News. “Teams can have games all they want but as you saw with results today it is often difficult to win football matches in this league.

“We are still in a really strong position. Yes, we are having one of those moments but I’d rather us have one now than with three, four, five games to go.

“For us, it is about managing the difficult spell. We have had loads of these since I have been in charge of the club. We have had some this season that I have had to manage and cope with, and this is no different. I just want to see us play with freshness and freedom again.

“I though Conor Bradley was absolutely outstanding – and, again, we had some moments that could have changed the direction of the game. But on the whole we under-performed and we did not deserve to win.”

Evatt saw some of his younger players struggle on the day – notably Manchester United loanee Shola Shoretire, who he feels was not given adequate protection from the officials in a physical midfield.

“We spoke before the game about how experienced they are and I played with their captain, I know all about the dark arts of Samy Morsy. And within 15 minutes Shola Shoretire has got a busted lip, busted face, blood all over him, and that isn’t a coincidence,” he said.

“Sometimes we need some protection. I don’t think there was great consistency.

“I think the big decision, the penalty, was spot on, but other than that it was one of those games.

“There was four minutes of added time when there were seven or eight substitutes and a goal in the second half – and the amount of time the keeper had the ball, it didn’t make any sense.

“I don’t think it would have changed the result but I do like to see some consistency on that.”